How many of your child’s water bottles, caps, or toys, have never made their way back home from school? How many times has your child called you from school, asking you to urgently bring her the homework, or PE kit, she had forgotten at home? Well, probably too many times!!
We love our children and want to support them in any way we can, but it can be frustrating (infuriating?) to feel so relied upon to help them find their stuff and constantly remind them (nag them?) about what they need to do. And as the finish line, in the form of the end of high school, draws closer and closer, you can’t help questioning whether she’ll be able to cope with the demands of university, especially if she’s to study overseas.
Ok, take a deep inhale! The objective of this article is not to send you into a panicking mode – after all, you may have many years to go before she leaves the nest – but rather to highlight a few systems and habits you can help your child build upon over the years to make her more organised and independent. Here they are.
Children as young as three years old can be involved in “packing” their schoolbags and ensuring that none of the things they need for the day ahead is forgotten at home.
For that, you need to designate a specific place at home, ideally next to the main door, where everything that your child needs for kindergarten or school will be gathered – I call it the “launching pad”.
Place a checklist with the contents of the schoolbag next to it. For example:
- lunch box
- change of clothes
- music instrument
- things for after-school activities etc.
Depending on your child’s schedule, the list may vary every day. Use images instead of words if your child is too young to read.
Make it your child’s responsibility to gather her things. For young children, you may want to make it a game by putting on a timer or some music to keep them focused. You’ll still probably have to pack and unpack her schoolbag on her behalf until the primary school years but having a launching pad will avoid the frantic run around the home in the morning to gather all that’s needed for the day ahead!
Read more: How to avoid the morning rush
It is reasonable to expect your primary schooler to bring all her stuff back home after school, at least most of the time. A copy of the checklist you have developed for her launching pad will prove very useful. Attach it to her backpack or make it a bookmark to be attached to her diary (having it laminated will help keep it in good condition for the entire school year). Think about the best cue for her to remember to check her checklist. It could be the school bell ringing, or a phone reminder, for example.
Taking the habit of emptying the school bag when she’s back from school will ensure that no unnecessary stuff is going back and forth between school and home and will as a result limit the risk of getting lost. Ask your primary schooler to return the contents of her school bag to their proper place: lunch box to the kitchen, dirty PE outfits to the laundry basket, schoolwork to her desk, etc.
Add responsibilities progressively. For example, she could first be in charge of returning her lunchbox to the countertop in the kitchen, then when this habit has been acquired, throwing her lunch leftovers in the bin and putting the box and cutlery in the sink, and eventually washing the dishes herself.
TWEENS & TEENS:
Middle school is bound to test your child’s organising systems – or lack thereof – especially with subject-taught classes requiring different sets of notebooks and textbooks to be brought to school every day. Having a clutter-free and well-organised study area will prove critical for your child to stay on top of all the paperwork she has to handle.
If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to invest in a proper desk equipped with drawers or containers to store all her supplies such as pens, pencils, highlighters, scissors, erasers, measurement tools, calculator, and sticky notes. Her timetable should be kept visible above the desk, as well as her weekly schedule encompassing all the after-school activities, tuition, sports, and study time your child is committed to.
Need help developing a balanced schedule for your child? Reach out!
A bookcase to store textbooks and schoolwork will help free up space on the desk so that it’s a proper working space. Paper should be filed, not piled, as piles attract clutter and make it difficult to find a document when it’s most needed. Notes, completed work, tests and ongoing projects should be sorted in magazine holders by subject and properly labelled to make sure they are easily identifiable. Having a binder with multiple pockets (one per subject) can also be useful to carry schoolwork to and from school.
The desk should be tidied up at the end of the study time. And the paperwork should be purged at the end of the school year, or at least before the beginning of the next one, to ensure that only relevant paper is kept.
The school locker should be viewed as interim storage, a place to keep the materials your child needs for the day while she moves from class to class, but it should be emptied at the end of the day. Having multiple storage spaces i.e., the bookshelves at home and the locker at school, will lead to confusion and most certainly result in not having the materials needed at hand.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE PARENTS?
It’s important to let your child be in the driver’s seat when it comes to designing her own organising systems because she’s less likely to resist them if they’re based on her needs and preferences. Give her a chance to experiment and learn from her mistakes by bearing the consequences of her decisions and actions.
Even if you feel that a lot of things need to be set up or changed, don’t attempt to do it all at once. Start small. Be patient. Focus on the progress she’s making. And reward her appropriately when she’s achieved a milestone. At the end of the day, as Ann Landers, an American journalist said, “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.” Good luck to you all!
Did you know I work with children as young as 7 years old? Reach out if you’d like some help to get your child organised, whether it’s for her bedroom or studies, especially if she hasn’t taken your guidance so far. Sometimes an outsider can make all the difference and help restore order and peace in the home.
This blog was first published on Sassy Mama website.